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4 ways to help the body adjust to riding in hot weather

Tips for ensuring the transition to summer riding is enjoyable

Cyclist resting and drinking isotonic drink. Backlight, sunny summer day.

by Dan WayCyclist resting and drinking isotonic drink. Backlight, sunny summer day.

As the summer months approach, the mercury will inevitably start to rise. With hotter temperatures, Canadians can expect the humidex factor to take a leap as well. These changes will have a profound impact on how you ride, train and race throughout warmest months.

The initial response of most cyclists is one of relief. Shedding layers usually feels great after several months of being all bundled up. But soon, those warm and pleasant spring rides will turn into hot, humid and sweaty ones. As a result, the body (and mind) will need to adapt accordingly. Here are some guidelines and recommendations for transitioning to cycling in warmer weather:

Take your time

First and foremost, know that acclimatizing to the heat takes time. Oftentimes, it can take as much as two-to-four weeks to adjust. There will definitely be a period of time when riding when it’s really hot will feel unusually hard and uncomfortable especially if you haven’t done it months. When this happens, know that it is temporary. One of the biggest changes the body makes to adjust for warmer weather is to increase the overall volume of blood. The best way to assist this process is to drink plenty of water.

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Being sufficiently hydrated is the number one way to stay safe when it gets hot outdoors. Dehydration can be a serious issue made worse by the higher rate of sweating while training in the heat. It’s essential to be in a well-hydrated state before each ride. Drinking fluids (mostly water) throughout the day is the best way to maintain optimal hydration. Having clear to slightly yellow urine is a good sign that you are well hydrated but be sure to drink something containing electrolytes (specifically sodium and potassium) as well. While out for the ride aim to drink a 550 ml bottle every hour or so. You may even find you need more. Recovery will also be easier if you were properly hydrated throughout your ride.

Dress appropriately

Be sure to choose apparel made of light, moisture-wicking fabrics and materials and possibly those that are UV-resistant on sunny days. Wearing sunglasses is important for protecting your eyes and applying sunscreen will also help avoid sunburns. Gloves can be helpful in hot conditions as well as they provide a sure grip even if your hands are sweaty. If you can avoid dark colours on really hot days even better.

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Adjust your training

Perhaps the simplest way to remain comfortable on hot and humid days is to slow down. Especially in the first few days and weeks of unseasonably warm weather, when the body has not fully acclimatized, taking it easy and doing easier efforts by feel is the best way to avoid overdoing it. Approach workouts and long rides with caution knowing your body may not be fully ready for the effort yet. You may not be able to ride as hard or as long as you think you can so be prepared to scale back your hard efforts until you begin to feel good.

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